CANBERRA, Australia – CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A conservative political leader has rejected key demands from three independent lawmakers who are likely to decide which party forms Australia's next government after indecisive elections.
Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott, who heads the conservative opposition coalition, said Thursday that he would not allow the Treasury Department to analyze what impact his election promises would have on the national budget.
Abbott told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio said that he had "no confidence in integrity of process" within Treasury. But he said the independents were welcome to see calculations by a private accounting firm commissioned by his party.
"We will be completely frank and candid with the independents," said Abbott, adding that he had nothing to hide.
Independents Bob Katter, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott are likely to decide whether Abbott's coalition or caretaker Prime Minister Julia Gillard's Labor Party forms a government after weekend elections failed to give any party a majority in the 150-seat House of Representatives for the first time in 70 years.
The independents opened negotiations with the two leaders on Wednesday and presented each with wish lists. Their top demand is for details of how much the competing election promises would cost the nation in areas including telecommunications, health and education.
Katter said Abbott's "intransigence" in not allowing Treasury to audit opposition promises was a blunder. Abbott did not mention his refusal during his nearly two-hour meeting with the independents, Katter said.
"If he looks so bad and has something to hide, it makes it much more difficult for us to give him the gong to become prime minister," Katter told ABC television.
Windsor said Abbott's stance was not a "deal breaker," but damaged his argument of offering more stable leadership.
"People will start to cast a doubt on whether people trust Tony Abbott if, in fact, he won't back his own promises up to independent scrutiny," Windsor told Fairfax Radio Network on Thursday.
Oakeshott had left Canberra and declined to comment.
"Rob is not making any further comment on current political negotiations until his return to Canberra on Monday, allowing all involved to work through the issues raised with both party leaders this week," his spokesman Garth Norris said in a statement.
The independents came under pressure from their own constituents to choose Abbott with a poll published in Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper on Thursday showing 55 percent of voters in their three rural electoral divisions wanted a coalition government with the conservatives. Another 37 percent opposed such a government and 8 percent were undecided.
The poll conducted by Sydney pollster Galaxy Research was based on a random telephone survey on Tuesday of 600 voters and had a 4 percentage point margin or error.
Katter disregarded the poll.
"Galaxy polling is not going to be deciding who's the government of Australia," Katter told reporters.
Gillard said on Wednesday she was inclined to release what cost projections of Labor promises were available, and was seeking advice from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. But as caretaker prime minister, she would also need Abbott's authority to release such budget information.
But Abbott said he would not agree to alter the rules that caretaker governments must follow to allow confidential budget information to be released.
The Australian Electoral Commission preliminary counts updated Thursday found Labor and the coalition each held 71 seats, with more than 80 percent of the vote counted. Three seats were undecided.